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In Which I Try to Build Steam

I've been trying to get the time and energy to turn 2015 into the Year of the Novella. Clearly, making plans is a sure way for them not to come to fruition. So I turned to the 100 prompts program to build momentum. That hasn't worked. One story got through the whole process and is on market. Stories two and three are sitting waiting for me to compile the critiques from April 7. Story Four needs serious re-writing. Story Five failed. Story Six failed. Story Seven Failed, and the reboot of Story Seven failed. I'm talking "what is the next word going to be" kind of failure for a couple of weeks.

I have lost my momentum.

Last night I ran my critique group through Jim Van Pelt's Seven Sentence Story, which is always fun and I've done in several times and tried to expand it. So, to switch up the momentum, I'm going to start with prompt 8 and push forward, writing seven-sentence stories, one a day, hopefully two, maybe even three, until I get through the book.

I will admit that some seeds have been planted. Now I need to deepen the well and get back to work.

Tags:

A peek into my Alternate Timelines

It has been a long time since I looked at my original GMail account. I had to stop using it because many many people wanted it, including my brother. I think I have saved him a fate worse than bureaucracy.

Here are the things I have been doing in other worlds:

  • As James and Julie, I am getting identical offers to buy my home.

  • As John, I owe 2,46 to Eurolink Motorway Operation

  • I need to read my meter in St. Lawrence, Jersey (the one in the English Channel)

  • I missed out on a hypnotherapy session in Durban, South Africa

  • I am now a member of UCLA Tau Beta Pi, which is impressive considering I didn't go there, and I never went greek.

  • And as Joanne, I am supposed to be helping identify a lost dog.

  • Google is kind enough to translate the emails I get as part of a Water Board somewhere in Chile. I still don't understand them, though.

As always, the other mes are keeping busy. I have tried to get off some of these mailing lists, but it only causes confusion.
I want to thank jimhines. His deconstruction of the outrage from a false victim over The Legend of Korra is brilliant. It is just the kind of pick-me-up I need to start the new year.

I post it here, because I've tried commenting on his LJ FIVE TIMES and I keep getting errors.

In Which 2014 is found wanting

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SF Signal (John D.)
Coming Soon from Subterranean Press: GRAND CRUSADES (The Early Jack Vance, Volume Five) - ow.ly/GEpnR

2014 Felt like the Year I Slowed Down.


By blogs, even though I added two, seems quieter. My fiction sales are even less noise-making, and my submissions have really dropped off. My lifting schedule is so light that every lift is starting over on the program.


In January, to jump start my writing, I took part in a 31-day writing challenge from The Art of Manliness. Here is a quote from my first post of that series:


I also am finding myself distracted by projects that aren't writing, and these projects drop me into the flow pretty fast. I spent six hours fiddling with some paper mechanics on one day recently, and I've fallen into that habit. I can trance out on something that is constant problem solving and work and pauses to let the glue dry and stay like that for hours. I know I've spent twelve hours straight in front of a computer and not moving at all, only stopping when I feel faint because I'm not eating.


Well, that didn't work out. I'm zoning out more and more. The one thing that seems to have stayed alive is my personal summary: Artist searches for muse and medium. I'm still searching.


There is a lot of good stuff written in January. I may revisit it and do the program over again.


February saw me doing something I haven't done in 25 years or so: Stand on stage and sing. After a couple of years of running the lights, I decided to participate and sang "Why Can't the English Teach Their Children How to Speak" from My Fair Lady. Stephanie played Eliza until she stormed off the set with an hilarious "Garn!". We also sang the penultimate number: "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof. My only regret is they didn't introduce our number with "there's always time for one more love song." Stephanie had been pushing me to sing it for years.


I also started lifting again. It was my first attempt of rebooting in 2014. I had a lot of reboots to my lifting.


March, according to my Journal, was all about theology and biblical realism, for which I have my own definition and it does not match what a Google search will provide.


April, according to my Journal, didn't happen.


May saw a rant and an attempt to understand what "Orwellian" means and how it is not being used correctly, which is, oddly, Orwellian. More importantly, I woke up one morning and felt heavy. Really heavy. Unable to bend at the waist heavy. Getting up was a pain and exhausting. I am fat, and I was feeling it. So I joined Weight Watchers. I was 294# on my official start. Nobody believes me when I tell them I'm really really heavy. I've lost about 20# since then. It's been slow, but my relationship with food has been a hell of a lot better.


In June we lost Jay Lake. In better news, the family reunion (biological and legal, not my old writing group) gathered in Ashland, where we saw some very good plays. They were so good I actually was inspired to write a short play, which is a first for me.


July, again, according to my Journal, didn't happen. In the real world, my immediate boss resigned, and ... well, let's just say nothing more on that matter. I miss her quite a bit, but she ain't coming back.


August saw the attempt to revive and force myself to work on my old Story A Day project, which I renamed to Better Writing Through Reading and moved it off LiveJournal.


September was September. I put a tick on a box marked "get older". We lost another dear friend to another terrible disease.


October: I prepped for the elections by ignoring them, and had a happy thought about.


November. Elections. Apparently I got 3 out of 7 right. A more egotistical blogger would claim Oregon got 4 out 7 wrong. I also bailed on NaNoWriMo on the 12h or 13th, and I really hope I remember this next October.


December. We kinda felt Christmas go by. Lessons and Carols was great. It's such a big part of our seasonal prep that the season feels done by the time we've rearranged the church.


Fiction Sales:

My zombie story The Bread of Like, Life, and Stuff will appear in a zombie-infested anthology from Sky Warrior Books down the road.


Live Feed, a Murdock Collins story, went live over at Pulp Corner.


I also experimented with self-publishing and released Memory of Flesh (my first sale back in--gulp--2005) and Uncle Charlie Goes Swimming.

A quiet year.

I have declared 2015 the Year of the Novella. May it find us all happier.

[Writing] In which I try a thing

My writing has really slowed down, and I am finding my scatterbrain trying to work on several projects at once in the late hour at the end of my day when I finally manage to  sit down to write, on the few days I manage to sit down and write. So I have decided to try a solid production schedule up, not by wordcount, but by scene management.
As  I have several stories I want to write, and I kind of know how they go, but I am thinking this is my year of the novella, and the stories require heavy plotting. So the plan is to plot scenes.
The problem is defining a scene. I have an overdue library book about scenes and one of the ideas in the book is every scene has a focal point, that beat where the story moves, the point where the direction of the scene changes. This seems simple to say and harder to pull off. In practice, I don't find a point where the scenes change. The focal point of the scenes I'm bashing out feel like they are falling at the end of the scene, which also feels like cliffhanger writing.
Maybe this is what it means to write a page turner.
My scenes tend to build to a point, hit the reader with some strong emotion, and then switch POVs.
Anyway, to pull this off I have spreadsheets for each story, and each scene on a row, with the pertinent information. Then, once I allow my self to write (and not write about writing) I can do a scene, and hopefully call it progress.
It also means that the full story needs to be plotted. That's a trickier thing.
I've summarized the narrative arcs using the every-impressive 7-sentence story, but I have not mastered extending that to a fuller story, so each character ends up with four or five scenes, instead of four or five movements. Maybe I need a paradigm shift.
But the plan is to create a spacetime structure in which I can work on assignment, instead of trying to fake something every night.

[Lifting Log] In Which I Start Over

I have lost count of the number of times I restarted my lifting program this year. It seems lately I just go out to the garage and do a set of presses just to get the blood pumping, but not to gain anything. It's more like maintenance. And I'm okay with maintaining the strength I have as long as my weight keeps dropping.

Tonight I did a 215# squat, 120# press, 120# row, and a 165# deadlift. My left knee has been the bane of my squats all year, and it felt tweaky on my very last rep. Stretching is the only cure.

I may get a chance Thursday to lift again, and definitely on Saturday, but that's a long time between lifts.
The new Star Wars movie is supposed to be the thing every geek longs for, as if we can get the foul taste of Episode I out of our mouths. I've watched the teaser trailer. I've watched the Lego version. I've even watched the George Lucas "Special Edition" of the trailer. And I am, well, not letting myself get overwhelmed with it all.

We get to see Tatooine, and maybe Naboo, and maybe some forest planet. We get to see SFX that look like they are closer to the original 1977 style than the 1999 style. From what little glimpses the teaser offers, it looks better, less CGI like, although I expect there will be a lot of CGI in this film. I have heard that Abrams is using more real props and settings than Lucas did in the prequels, and I'm okay with that.

I'm already terribly confused by what's canon in Star Wars now, as I think most of the Marvel, Dark Horse, and Bantam extended universe stuff has been scrapped. That turns the last 30 years of publishing into fan fiction, I think. Some of that is okay, as many of the books were quite good, but many were not. Plus, they killed Chewbacca in one of the books and that bothered the hell out of me. All those stories could be out.

Star Wars is really mythology, so the mythology has to hold up. We've seen the Dark Side of the force rise, conquer, and get beaten. Now, I guess officially, we know nothing about the Light Side of the force. We don't really know how the Jedi ruled or how they will rule, or even if they will rule. The title "The Force Awakens" can be spun out into many many directions. Presumably there are no Sith lords running around now, unless Vader had other candidates. Again, the rules of the EU may be out, so who knows. I know the rule of two was mentioned in a movie, so it's in.

Another thing that I'm not sure I'm going to appreciate is Abrams' involvement.  I know Abrams from Star Trek and Cloverfield. Star Trek didn't impress me, but once my voice changed, I found Star Trek less and less enjoyable, to the point where I announce "James Kirk is the worst thing to happen to science fiction" in my radio announcer voice at conventions, just to start fights. Abrams didn't do a good job with Trek because the source material is void of content. You can't do anything with it. As soon as Kirk strays from the pugilistic rapist he is, he's got nothing else to recommend him. Cloverfield was a good movie, until the monster was given screen time. I almost wonder if Cloverfield would have been better without ever seeing the full thing.

Oh, and apparently he was involved with Lost, which struck me as a story of characters and mystery and no idea what the fuck they were doing. From what I gather reading reviews of Lost, I think I may have been right. They started without knowing the end, and that is exactly why so many of my short stories and novels stop. I have great openings, no story to back them up with, so they linger in a folder on my computer, emiting whatever odor bytes can muster.

I know that this time next year I wil be excited about Episode VII. I will be waiting in line to by advanced tickets to a Friday night show. I know my Star Wars fan will be there, squeeing with delight.

But stilly, I'm nervous. We haven't been given any hints in this trailer to define the movie. I've got a guy in a stroomtrooper uniform, and a gal on hoverbike, and a silly lightsaber with a dangerous-looking crossguard, and--oh, the Falcon and John William's most famous fanfare. I will admit, that made my heart leap for joy. I felt it.

[NaNoWriMo] "The Long Weekend" Day One

A couple of weeks ago we visited my sister-in-law at her college and we hit the colleg bookstore, as we do in our family. There I discovered a "new" book by Dashiell Hammet: The Return of the Thin Man. It contains the stories Hammet wrote for the first two sequels to the first Thin Man movie. Because it is a treatment for a movie script, it is "tight" writing and it is written in present tense omniscient.

As I decided only Thursday what style of story to write, and that was based on Nick and Nora while using my established characters of Murdock Collins and Jordon Li, I found the natural voice to be Omniscient Third Person Present Tense. This is a strange way to write, especially has every other Murdock Collins story is First Person Past Tense.

The freedom of the voice is I can head hop, which makes writing a murder plot a bit tricky. The challenge is the characters all have to have their own opinion and to some extent, their own voice, and it can't be filtered through Murdock's normal sarcasm.

The other challenge I face in plotting this thing is I don't know what the hell is going on. I know who dies. I'm kind of certain as to why, and very unsure about the who. I fear I'm going to break the firstrule of mystery writing by introducing the actual murderer some time in the third act. Right now I have a small cast of characters. I think one of the things that made the Thin Man movies so good was the large cast of characters, so I need to find a way to include more people.

Also, and I don't know why this seems as important as it does, but I don't kill anyone until almost 2,000 words in.

[Politics] Oh, yeah. Elections

We're what, three, four weeks from the election and I haven't picked up what was supposed to be my active citizenship stuff.

It's a midterm election, and almost every pollster is claiming the Republicans will take the Senate, which I can't see, as they don't have a platform. They have Bengazi and Repeal Obamacare. They have "support families" by eliminating the minimum wage and "environmental protection" by letting oil companies write pollution guidelines.

I probably won't get far this year, either. I'm feeling isolationist. The more I watch the world, the more disgusted I feel. The more time I spend on the world, the more my time seems wasted. In short, I feel like "they" are doing a good job of beating me into submission.

So, here's my current take on the Oregon measures. I reserve the right to change my mind as I investigate.

  • Measure 86 - Form some sort of fund to help students pay for college. Why not? I know too many people burdened by school debt they cannot ignore and underemployement, because the American Dream turned out to cost too many "job creators" money. It's a temporary fix, but that shouldn't stop us.

  • Measure 87 - Let our Judges get second jobs. They probably need them, to pay off school loans. No one seemed to care enough to make arguments for or against this, and it is described as a technical fix on the constitution. Okay. I'll bite.

  • Measure 88 - Let non-citizens get a card saying they know how to drive. My parish has a stake in this one, and I'm pretty sure compassion will override principle. There are more arguments against it than for it, but a cursory glance at the opposition highlights many "I don't like brown people" type of comments. Life is tough enough with a screwed up immigration system. Let's make it easier on people who are just trying to build a better life. You know, like the American Dream we sold them on promises.

  • Measure 89 - Let's put Gender Equality in the Constitution. No one is arguing against this. Wow. This one should have been like clickbait for the misogynists, and they didn't follow through. Vote yes. Seems like a no-brainer to enshrine equality.

  • Measure 90 - Let's Screw with the Primaries! - I'm against this one. It's the wrong solution to the problem. Instead of sending the top two "best politicians" we'll send the top two "richest runners" instead. I'd vote OH HELL NO but Secretary of State Brown won't let me.

  • Measure 91 - Legalize Pot. Sorry. No. Yes, they are less physically harmful than cigarettes, but I wan't to ban cigarettes, so there.

  • Measure 92 - Label GMOs. I don't fear GMOs. I believe that science can do a lot to improve our quality and quantity of food, and we should use every measure possible to do so. That being said, I do fear food manufacturers (and I kind of dislike thinking about food being manufactured. Cars are manufactured. IKEA furniture is manufactured. Food should be grown) are too eager to see a return on investment of their research and will bypass the normal science-based shit we do to ensure our food is safe. I'm in favor of this, because every little bit helps.

So that's where I stand today. If I take a more serious look at things, I'll try to share.

Uncle Josh is supposed to go out and lift, and then walk to the library, so of course I ran through my Facebook feed and found this post shared by my friend John Burridge. In short, the post compares Amy Pond's basic arc with that of Twilight's Bella Swan (if I got the name wrong, I don't care. I'm writing this based on sciolism). The two characters have the same things happen: They must choose between two men of different species, there is a baby that grows incredibly quickly and marries the the other man.

Uncle Josh says "pshaw!"

Never mind that, as I understand Twilight, Bella's baby grows unnaturally fast, whereas Dr. River Song grew up "normally" and it only looked fast to the story because of time travel.

No, this points to a simple "well, duh" truth: story arcs are limited. Character counts. Love triangles exist all over literature. So do older men marrying younger women. These things happen. Compare the characters, and the differences emerge.

As I understand Twilight (and blessedly very little at that), Bella is the kind of girl who moped and tried suicide if she didn't have a boyfriend. Amy's attitude is "whose arse to I have to kick to get my boyfriend/husband/Time Lord" back. Bella is seen by the men as a prize, or punching bag, or meal, or penis-storage unit. Amy is a partner that makes life worth living.

We tell the same arcs all the time. TV is incredibly predictable because the shows tell the same four or five stories over and over again. It's the characters that matter. Ask any fan of Castle. I don't know anyone who watches Castle that actually cares about the murders. They don't matter. Murder is a device to let two characters be over-the-top cute with each other. Even the season-long arcs on Castle are familiar and predictable. But that's okay. We spend time with the characters.

Of course, if I don't translate that understanding into my writing, I will continue to not sell.

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